- Last Updated: 5:56 AM, November 13, 2011
- Posted: 3:15 AM, November 13, 2011
Even in the toughest moments, Sal Pipia never had any doubts. Even when the Monsignor McClancy senior star thought he wouldn’t play another high school game, he felt like his team would win the title.
“It’s all about confidence,” said Pipia, who dislocated his shoulder last month and thought his season was done. “And I have a bunch of confidence in my players. I knew I was gonna be here with this plaque in my hand.”
The Crusaders might have won it without him. But we’ll never find out.
Pipia was cleared after a second opinion before the quarterfinals Tuesday against St. Edmund Prep. He had the golden goal in overtime in that game and he scored twice more Saturday to lead McClancy to a 2-1 win over Mount St. Michael in the CHSAA Class A intersectional boys soccer final Saturday at St. John’s University’s Belson Stadium. It’s the Crusaders’ second championship in three years.
“We missed him a lot,” McClancy keeper Xavier Carillo said. “He’s the life of the team. He’s the No. 1 guy.”
It took Pipia all of nine minutes to make his presence felt as he scored on a Mike Ferrara assist to put McClancy (14-2-2) up 1-0. In the 30th minute, Pipia was taken down in the box and converted the penalty kick as well to send the Crusaders into the half with a two-goal lead.
“Everyone doubted us,” Pipia said. “We got injured – me, [co-captain] George [Alissandratos], a couple other players. But I knew the other kids were gonna step up like Matt [Scimemi] and Mike and they did. And that’s why we’re here.”
Carillo made a few acrobatic saves and McClancy really was steady all over the field against Mount (13-2-3), which had not lost since it played McClancy way back on Sept. 16. Like Pipia, coach Mike Sylvester never wavered when his two captains went down. Alissandratos was also hurt Oct. 3 against Cardinal Hayes with an ankle injury and the semifinals against St. Joseph by the Sea was the first time the Crusaders have been truly healthy all season.
“Our goal is: Don’t change,” Sylvester said. “We want to win the division. We want to win the city championship.”
McClancy was still able to go 5-2-0 after losing the two integral stalwarts and their young teammates gained valuable experience in their absence. Alissandratos returned for the playoffs and Pipia’s comeback was a bit of a surprise. He went to another doctor and was cleared literally 20 minutes before the quarterfinal against St. Edmund.
“Obviously, that’s the best news I heard in a long time,” Sylvester said.
If the Crusaders were playing well without Pipia, with him they took things to a new level. Sylvester said it was immediately uplifting even though Pipia’s fitness level isn’t what it should be and he has to wear a shoulder brace.
His presence alone might have driven McClancy to the title. But to pull off the heroics he did was awe-inspiring. Mount got a goal back on a Harold Herrera penalty kick in the 56th minute, but the Crusaders were draped all over star freshman Anton Porter the entire afternoon. Carillo all but sealed the titel with a diving save of a Fabian Leon free kick in the 73rd minute.
Pipia’s two goals stood up.
“Storybook,” Sylvester said. “Unbelievable.”Follow @NYPostsports